ST. PETERSBURG — For years, St. Petersburg was the lone holdout among Pinellas County's 24 municipalities in offering its residents curbside recycling.
The city finally changed course this fall, approving a voluntary curbside recycling program in September.
Residents are quickly on their way to making up for lost time, figures released Thursday show.
In a little more than two months, about 4,900 customers have signed up for St. Petersburg's program, which requires people to pay an annual $33 subscription fee to Waste Services of Florida Inc. That amounts to $2.75 a month.
"On average, every five minutes they're getting a new subscriber," said Mike Connors, city administrator for public works.
Connors said Waste Services, the company that runs the program, hopes to eventually reach a 20 percent participation rate, or about 20,000 city households.
"They're well on their way," Connors told officials at Thursday's City Council meeting.
Council member Herb Polson said he signed up for the program shortly after its Oct. 1 launch.
"There were very few blue buckets on my street," he said.
Now, he said, the 18-gallon bins the company provides are popping up all over the place.
Polson said he's been impressed with the program's convenience and ease. Residents are allowed to put all their recyclables in one container. Waste Services separates the material.
The company accepts plastic numbered between 1 and 7; steel and aluminum cans; glass; fibrous materials, broken-down cardboard boxes; newspapers; office paper; junk mail; phone books; and magazines.
"The folks come like clockwork on your pickup day," Polson said. "I think they've taken all the angst out of this."
While St. Petersburg's recycling program appears to be a hit, efforts to introduce the service to unincorporated parts of Pinellas remain on hold while county staff members examine plans that combine trash pickup with curbside recycling, and ones that don't.
County commissioners agreed in May to stall the effort until January. If it's approved then, it could start in January 2013.
Connors said he thinks the county delay has contributed to the popularity of St. Petersburg's program. He said residents had built up an anticipation for the service.
"It was the right program at the right price at the right time," he said.
Kameel Stanley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8643.